August 7, 2013 —
HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PF&BC) is considering a ban on fishermen using crayfish as bait because of the harm exotic, non-native crayfish pose to native crayfish and their local ecosystems.
Several popular fisheries in PA already have reportedly seen their natural food chains irreversibly altered, according to David Lieb, invertebrate zoologist with the PF&BC, speaking at the July meeting of the board of commissioners.
Lieb explained the impact invasive, non-native crayfish have. First they replace native crayfish species. Next aquatic plants begin to decline. As the chain reaction continues, populations of mussels, snails, caddisflies, midges and other invertebrates diminish as the invasive crayfish eat them. Amphibian populations are threatened because their eggs also are a food source, and finally fish are impacted.
In two examples, a famed trout stream, Spruce Creek near State College, has been invaded by the Allegheny crayfish, which is native to western Pennsylvania; and rusty crayfish, native to the Ohio River Basin, now infest the lower Susquehanna River and its streams.
Invasive crayfish are spread only through human activity. Prevention is the only treatment.
At their October meeting Fish and Boat commissioners will consider banning all possession and transportation of any crayfish unless the head of the animal has been removed.